When you’re shopping for a new car, it’s easiest to go to a dealership. After all, they’ll take care of all the details for you, including titles and inspection. But dealerships aren’t always the cheapest.
When you’re working with a private seller, you’re more likely to pay a lower price on your new vehicle. But what if you’re sold a lemon? Can you sue someone for selling you a salvage car?
If you’ve bought a car only to find that the title is a salvage title, you have a few options. Here’s what you need to know.
As they say, caveat emptor--the buyer is the one responsible for checking the quality of the goods. There are lemon laws in the United States and you are protected against fraud, dodgy dealers, and downright terrible deals, but a lot of the responsibility falls on you.
Check the condition of the vehicle and its title before any money changes hands. In almost no case in the United States should you purchase a car if the seller doesn’t have a title in hand. You're just asking for trouble.
The title itself will state whether the vehicle you’re looking to purchase has been totaled. If the seller, for whatever reason, isn’t furnishing the title to you, it’s easy to request a report online or from the DMV.
Can I Sue A Dealer for Selling Me a Salvage Car?
If you’ve been sold a vehicle with a salvage title, you likely have some recourse. This can vary from state to state, though, so check with your local laws. With that in mind, if you do determine that your car is a salvage, it may be best to speak with the seller directly.
If you feel comfortable doing so, approach them and ask to reverse the sale. The worst they can say is that it’s not an option. If your request is objected to, you may choose to seek the advice of a law firm. There are many lawyers that specialize in dealing with lemon law and auto fraud cases and they'll provide you with the information you need.
Check attorney listings, state your case, and make sure you know how much they charge and whether it will be worthwhile before you agree to anything.
In short, if a seller has knowingly sold you a salvaged vehicle, they can be charged with fraud. However, you should carefully weigh your options. Sometimes the cost of an attorney can be more than the price you paid for the car itself.
What to Do if You’re Sold a Salvage
If you’re a mechanic, a salvage vehicle may be a good investment. The average person, however, should think twice before buying.
Remember that a salvage title means that it will cost more to repair the car than a percentage of the car’s worth. Bear in mind, too, that that can refer to simple cosmetic damages. Maybe you don’t care that the door panel is dented, or that you can’t properly open the rear passenger door.
But there are other considerations to make with a salvage:
- The vehicle may not meet safety standards or pass inspections.
- Your insurance company may not cover the vehicle.
- The car may be stolen.
- The quality of your vehicle may be compromised.
With this in mind, it may not be in your best interest to hang on to a salvage title vehicle. But if the seller won’t cooperate in reversing the sale, you have several options.
- You can hire an attorney to help you sue for the vehicle’s cost
- You can contact the police and press charges for fraud
- You can seek guidance from your local legal aid department to file a civil suit without an attorney
- You can chalk the experience up to bad luck and try to resell the vehicle for parts, to a mechanic, or to a scrapyard
Very few of these options are likely to replenish your wallet. They may, however, start you on your way to replacing the lemon you bought.
You have grounds to sue if you’ve knowingly been sought a salvage title car. If the buyer did not disclose the status of the title, he or she may face repercussions in court.
That said, it is absolutely your responsibility to check the status of the vehicle before you pay for it.
Take the car to a reputable mechanic and have him or her check the condition of the vehicle.
Run a vehicle history report.
And always look at the title before you pay a seller your hard-earned money.